God, Congregation, and Codependency, Panel Discussion

Desiring God 1992 Conference for Pastors

God, Congregation, and Codependency

David Livingston: Dr. Larry Crabb is the Director of Biblical Counseling at Colorado Christian University in Denver, Colorado, and Dr. Samuel Storms is the Pastor of Christ Community Church in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Let me invite you to begin. Who has a question?

Questioner: Say there has been someone in and out of counseling for years and their thorn remains and they are angry. They say, “Why hasn’t God healed me after so many times of crying out?” What do you say?

Dr. Larry Crabb: I think one of the difficulties in my position as a counselor is I’m often asked very methodological questions and to say what to do in that particular situation I think is an impossible thing for me to say without having the person in front of me. That’s why at our advanced seminars, we play videotapes of live counseling so we can give some indication as to what we would say, how we would interact. I can respond conceptually more easily than I can methodologically without taking more time. So let me give you a brief conceptual answer.

I’ll never forget a man named Buck Hatch who has been a professor of the Bible College for a number of years. He was the speaker at Bill’s memorial service last March and he’s 79 years old. He had lost his son. One of his four sons died of a heart attack about a year before Bill died in the airplane crash. And he looked out at the front row where mom and dad and Phoebe, my sister-in-law, Kurt and Karen, Bill’s two kids, and Rachel and I were sitting there and with a power that I’ve rarely felt from the pulpit — I felt power, many times, but this was an exquisite power — he looked at our family and he said, “Ask your questions because you’ll find God in the middle of your questions.” That meant a great deal to me because I find that most of us ask questions that God answers very differently than we anticipate the way he’s going to answer.

First John talks about little children, young men, and fathers, and 1 John 2 and some take that to be three levels of maturity, which I think it might be because there are three things that are mentioned very differently about each category. I think little children ask the question, “God, do you really care about me when things happen?” I think God’s answer is, “Not the way you expect me to.” And then to use Lewis’s line in Narnia, I think the Lord says, “I’m good but I’m not safe.”

Then young men, when they get involved in the struggles of life, they say, “God, will you help?” And sometimes God says, “Not the way you expect me to. I’m strong, but I’m not cooperative, not with your agendas am I always cooperative.” And that produces a confusion for me. And then the young men continue to ask, “But God, I’m hurting, will you heal?” And sometimes God says, “Not the way you intend because I’m very tender, but I’m not always soothing.” And then finally the older men I think finally say, “God, will you reveal yourself to me?” I think God’s answer is, “Yes, but in my way and in my time.” And I think the fact that God answers questions in a way that we don’t anticipate challenges our understanding of God and forces us to expand our view of him. I really do believe that one of the core struggles in the human soul is to look at life and to conclude that God is good.

I don’t think you can, I think it’s very tough to do that. You’ve got to have other data. You’ve got to have revelation. Looking at life is pretty hard to conclude that whoever’s in charge of this thing is doing a good job. And I think that coming to God, wrestling with him as Jacob wrestled, and going down to the mat with him with our questions, but still coming to him, at some point he gradually reveals more of the fact that although he’s not the way we think he is, he’s far better than our wildest dreams. I would encourage that raging person, that angry person to look at the roots of their anger, to look at the fact that their anger really reflects a demand that God be a certain thing which they’re insisting is necessary. Therefore, they’re requiring themselves to be sovereign and God to be cooperative, and he will not meet us in those terms.

Questioner: What would you say about repressed memories and what role they play in the way you minister in people’s lives?

** John Piper:** They don’t play much of a role at all in the way I minister. It’s an uncharted territory for me. My hope and my prayer is that in talking about the realities that I do remember, that I do know about the present struggles that I have and in dealing with the Scriptures that I do understand, that the Lord would apply that to hundreds of people on Sunday morning enabling them to do what they need to do with it. I’m just thinking out loud here of what the Lord might be doing in that regard that I’m not planning for him to do — namely, trying to create an atmosphere in which if the Lord were pleased to bring to people’s minds damaging things that happened to them in the past, there would be an atmosphere and a context in which they could be dealt with without fearing that that sort of thing would be scoffed at.

But I don’t do much extensive work long-term. I don’t do any long-term counseling in my office and the little that I do, whenever I hear people describing backgrounds that are manifestly discouraging and have gone a long way into making them the pain people that they are, I try to resonate with that and create a sense of hope. In a sense my answer to that is the same one I would’ve given to Tom’s question about what do you say to somebody who’s angry with God because their circumstance didn’t change? I think that those people usually, if they’re in the church, know the answer to that question already. Namely, they need to learn to trust the goodness of God. As Cowper says:

God’s purposes will ripen fast Unfolding every hour. The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

They know that in their head. And I think what people need is illustrations, especially from Scripture where that was true so that I’m always looking for new ways to hold out hope in the goodness of God in biblical circumstances that don’t look hopeful. The most recent one is that I was reading through Matthew and James and John’s mother come and they say, “Grant that my sons, James and John, sit at your right hand and your left.” And Jesus said, “Well, they will drink the cup that I will drink, but it is not mine to give them that it is for whom it has been prepared.” In other words, that was a prayer given to the Savior for a privilege for her sons. And he said, “I can’t answer that prayer because my love for James and John having brought them into the inner ring of the special three cannot be used to decide that. I defer in my affections for them towards the wisdom of my Father for whoever he has that prepared.”

Now there’s just another little glimmer, and had I read that in my devotions yesterday morning and sat down in a counseling session with somebody today who presented me with an unanswered prayer, I would’ve told them that story. I believe in a year that would come back to me, “You know, Pastor, the story you told me about James and John and their mother who didn’t get her prayer answered because Jesus had an affection for her sons, but he submitted his affection to the father’s wisdom and didn’t fulfill it, that really meant a lot.” I think the Lord gives to pastors in their devotional life words for the afternoon’s counseling that no amount of training probably would do.

Questioner: Are there special pre-evangelistic or evangelistic concerns for codependent people?

Piper: At root, those people know it won’t cut it to say they’re good at the bottom and therefore you’ve got a common ground already with the people who’ve been taught a wrong assessment of their deepest problem because God has already taught them. God has written something in there that tells them, “I’ve got a deeper problem.” I had a couple come in to tell me after years of sexual therapy and they just oozed the language of codependency. I gave them about a 10-minute spiel of my sense of its inadequacy and their mouths just were open the whole time. They said, “That sounds exactly right.” They were both kind of saying, “Yes, that’s right.” That was the reaction I got, that somebody had cheated them. They had cheated them for not having told them that beneath all this struggle to define that they weren’t really defective. There was a kind of defection that God deals with at a deeper level. Now I think you can do that with unbelievers. I think written on their hearts is a sense of need to get right with the living God that is beneath and under what else they’ve been taught.

Crabb: I concur with that. I think that one of the greatest counterfeits of conviction is what people call self-contempt. A lot of us are full of self-contempt. We say, “Oh, I’m just no good. I just can’t handle this. My husband’s never loved me. I’m just a no good wife. My kids are bad. It tells me I’m a terrible parent.” And people go on and on and on in terms of their self-contempt. And I think that in evangelizing folks who are full of self contempt, you need to be very, very clear that they’re not anywhere close to being convicted of sin when they use that language. And we need to expose their self-contempt as essentially pride and not really a deficit that needs to be affirmed. So I want to work through their self-contempt as a proud kind of a thing because the reason it’s pride is they’re basically saying that I need to expect myself to be better than this in order to make life work as it should.

And then to say, that’s the position you’re taking. I think John is very right, that you know that somewhere down deep you are not better. As a matter of fact, it isn’t just a matter that you’re a bad person because your mother didn’t love you, but where have you evidenced the energy of radical others-centeredness? And you start getting into that and you cut through the self-contempt to get down to the real conviction of sin. But I think that we have a major problem with the codependency movement, that it really has replaced conviction with contempt and that’s a major, major problem. We must not view contempt as a good step toward the gospel. It’s not. It’s a step away from the gospel to call that our problem one.

Dr. Sam Storms: The only thing that I’d want to say about that is that in dealing with someone who shows symptoms of so-called codependency, it seems as if they are Christian or non-Christian that we’re attempting to evangelize, I eventually get back to this issue. I’ll just use the same word dependency. I get to the fact that the bottom line is the inherent, native as well as willful refusal to cling to Christ and to Christ alone. And the ultimate answer obviously for the non-Christian and even for the Christian who’s wrestling with those issues is what I can only call an absolutely raw dependency upon the grace of Christ and the forgiveness of Christ. And I believe very deeply in something that Larry mentioned. He’s mentioned it I think in a couple of his books and especially in his seminars. And that is that perhaps one of the fundamental elements in sin is this notion of misplaced dependency.

Since we’re talking about the notion of dependency, it’s the fact that every individual comes into this life as David tells us in Psalm 51, and as we’re told elsewhere, doggedly determined to make life work without having to depend on God, without having to cling to the reality of his grace, knowing that with the first sin that we commit, we forfeit all right to life and that the only thing that we deserve really is death, whether dealing with a Christian or a non-Christian, so-called “codependent.” I would address them at the whole issue of dependency since that seems to be a problem the way Larry defined it this morning. It’s this dependency upon others for acceptance, this becoming whatever you have to the notion of false self to avoid rejection at all costs so that you don’t add to my sense of shame.

And it seems to me that the energy behind that is, “I have to do that because the only alternative I have is dependency upon grace, and that terrifies me. That is horrifying to think that the bottom line is that the only person who really is trustworthy is God.” So I would approach the whole issue through exploring the notion of dependency and getting back to the fact that it is a raw dependency clinging to Christ and the forgiveness that is available in him.

Questioner: What is the balance between agonizing with all the energy that the Lord provides (Colossians 1:29) and recognizing your own finitude, your own limitations? How do you strike that balance in your own lives and ministries?

Crabb: I depend on my wife when I’m relating to her in a way that makes her feel shut out, then it’s time for me to take a look at how much I’m giving. Six months ago we got talking about our kids and she said, “The way you’re talking about our kids hurts me so much.” I was just getting impatient and irritated about why they should be doing this and this and this. And I realized that I think that I was just moving too fast and I had to back down. I don’t have any problem admitting that even though the inexhaustible sources of Christ are there, he’s putting it through a rather finite and messed up person. And there are times when I’m not relating well to the people that I love the most, that I have the greatest responsibility to — my wife and children. When those things suffer, then I’m willing to back off.

I heard the story years ago, I think Howard Hendricks told the Dallas Seminary, maybe you’ve heard it, Sam, maybe it’s an old classic. It was about some seminary student that was just fall apart in some very visible ways. And Hendricks said, “When’s the last time you went out and had a good time?” And the guy used to be a fisherman. He hadn’t gone fishing in 10 years because he was too busy with his studies and witnessing and lots of other things. And Hendricks said, “Go fishing.” I think there’s a real place for that when you find that your close relationships are suffering the most, I don’t think you need to feel guilty about if you’ve got to prevail upon God for more grace so you can go back to ministry and everybody in the world. I think that’s craziness.

Storms: I agree completely. And the verse that came to mind when you asked the question was when Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7), and we need to remember that sometimes granted the gospel is a treasure, but we are clay pots. I agree totally. I think when you begin to see that it’s impacting other vital relationships, you might have to step back. I don’t know, is it legitimate for me to ask a question of Larry, because this came up this morning when you were talking and we talked about it during lunch. I had this question of setting boundaries and limits on what we can or cannot do.

It did come to my mind that perhaps there is a difference between what freedom you have in that regard as a counselor, a non-pastor as over against a pastor in a church. And I’m wondering if the expectations that people have of us differ in terms of our availability. Do you feel as if you have a greater freedom perhaps to take the phone off the hook and to be unavailable then perhaps a pastor might, or is the way that you deal with that something that ought to apply in a church situation?

Crabb: Certainly there are differences I think in expectations. When I speak about the pressures on me, I’m speaking not as a private practitioner. I’m no longer in private practice. I’m speaking not only in terms of speaking engagements and a meeting like this where sometimes folks want to chat, but I’m speaking more about my little community where I teach a graduate program of 66 students who are on our campus for a year, and that’s almost like my church. I almost pastor them in a sense. I think there’s some real differences, but there are some similarities.

But I would argue that while the expectations on you folks as pastors are going to be somewhat unique, I think there’s some overlap, speaking as an outsider, I think that there needs to be some recognition that you need to communicate that you are not in the business of meeting up to people’s expectations and that you’re going to simply have to frustrate some folks. And that can be a wonderful thing for their growth.

I think there comes a point when you can’t do it and you ought to say, “I can’t and I won’t.” When I would be asked to do certain things, I used to try to find some way to make up an excuse that sounded noble, I can’t do it because I’ve got to and say something about explanation. And now I’ll say something like, “I can’t do it because I want to go to the movies tonight.” I think there’s a place for being very human about that. And when the expectations get frustrated, make that the topic of conversation next time. And that would not be a bad Sunday evening series.

Storms: Can I follow that up with a personal example? One particular lady that I’ve worked with for two years now had reached a real point of crisis, of which I was not aware the last time we had met. She seemed to be progressing. And this on a Monday and it was Saturday and it was 7:25 p.m., and we had a worship service at the church that Saturday night for which I was responsible. And it started at 7:30 p.m. and my wife was at the ladies retreat at the church. So I had our two daughters and I was running to get out of there and I had a responsibility and I got a phone call. She was on the phone and I could tell that she was upset. She said, “I just needed someone to talk to.” And I said, “Well, I’d love to perhaps when I get home tonight around 9:30 p.m., you can call me then or I’ll even meet you tomorrow at church.”

And she said, “Oh, that’s all right.” And she hung up. Well, I went ahead to the meeting and came back and she had again attempted suicide that night after she got off the phone with me. She was convinced that if she couldn’t trust in me to be there for her when she needed me, that there wasn’t any reason for living. And we had to put her in a hospital for several months, three days later. I had a real hard time wrestling with that. I’ve gone over in my mind a hundred times, thinking, “How should I have reacted to that? Was I insensitive? Should I have picked up on signals she was sending after all I’d spent two years working with her?” It was deeply troubling to hear the words, “If I can’t count on you, I haven’t got anything left.” Because she didn’t feel she could count on her husband or anybody else in the church.

Well, some of you may have been through a situation like that yourselves, but that’s awful. I really don’t know what to tell somebody else in a situation like that. Fortunately, she’s doing great now and we’re on the best of terms, but I may have been wrong in doing it. I went into the hospital a couple of days later when she was strapped down and I asked for her forgiveness. I may have been wrong in doing that, maybe she did have asked me for forgiveness, but I asked for her forgiveness and she forgave me and everything’s fine now. But at the time, that’s a really difficult circumstance to know how to handle, and I don’t have any quick solutions for that.

Questioner: Dr. Crabb, could you speak about your attitude toward defense mechanisms? And second, could you speak about your view of mental illness?

Crabb: Let me answer the second one first, because it’s easier. I think sure, there’s such a thing as mental illness, if by mental illness you mean organic conditions that can result in behavioral disturbance that really have an organic basis. I think it’s possible that manic depressive psychosis has some form of organic basis. And when I have a patient involved with the symptoms of manic depressive psychosis, I have no hesitancy in referral to an internist or to a psychiatrist for lithium. I don’t have any problem with that. And I think there’s probably a fair number of the schizophrenias that have perhaps some kind of a genetic predisposition or some kind of organic basis. The data is not in, but there seems to be enough to suggest it’s really a possibility. I wouldn’t rule that out because obviously, as Jay Adams mentions, that there are a lot of physical conditions that do produce behavioral disturbances and when that’s the case then I’m out of my league.

I think it’s time for a physician to be involved just as if you had tuberculosis. I wouldn’t deal with that. That’s a medical problem and so I think there are certainly things that rightly bear the label “illness.” That doesn’t mean that we as Christians have no place. We can certainly pray for healing. But as we pray for healing, I’m also very willing to be involved with the physician. So that’s my answer to that question if that handles that all right.

In terms of the first question, do I believe that all defense mechanisms are ultimately sinful? I think I would not want to put it that way. I think that’s too restricted for you. I think all of us in our fallen world, in our fallen natures with fallen people interacting with us, until we come to a point of maturing more and more in Christ, are going to have a natural tendency to cope that I think maturity is going to replace with a tendency to trust. I would not want to start off a counseling session by talking to you about your defense mechanisms and saying everything you’re doing here is wrong, repent, and change. But I would want to argue that any effort that you’re making to preserve your own soul through resources that you can manage that ultimately that grows out of the energy of depravity and that’s something which ultimately will be replaced entirely in glorification.

Questioner: Dr. Crabb, how do you think Sam Storms should have handled this lady that called him at five minutes before the evening service and when he didn’t deal with her, didn’t talk with her, and she attempted suicide?

Crabb: I have no struggle at all with what he did in terms of going to church and not being responsive. I mean, let’s recognize our limitations for goodness sake. We do things that do sometimes have negative consequences but they’re unwitting. There was not malice on Sam’s part, there was not a, “Get off my back. I’d rather do anything than talk with you at this point.” I mean if that were his mood, that obviously would need some thought, but that wasn’t his mood. He had a church service to run. He had responsibilities to engage in. I don’t see a thing wrong with what he did. I think he was wondering whether he was right or wrong in going to her to ask her forgiveness, and I think that’s an open question. I would probably have felt that he didn’t need to do that. I don’t think he sinned against her. I think that many times saying no to people is the very best thing for them because of what he was earlier pointing out, a misplaced dependency.

For her to come to him and say that, “My life has no meaning if I can’t even trust my pastor,” that’s putting a very unfair burden on him and a very wrong attitude. Because in the very same sense, we can’t trust God the way we would like to be able to trust God.

I pray, whenever family members travel, I pray for safety. Do I believe that God’s hand was on the plane that went down in Colorado Springs as much as it was on the hand of the planes that landed? My brother was flying standby that day. He got on that plane standby, the plane that crashed. Well, if you believe in a sovereign God, you’ve got to say that a sovereign God was in charge of all of that. So can I trust God to see to it that somebody else in my family doesn’t die of a plane crash? No, I can’t trust him for that. All I can trust him for is to express his goodness in ways that one day I’ll fully praise him for and by now I praise him by faith. And therefore when this woman is basically saying, “I cannot live if I can’t trust my pastor,” my response is that you can’t give in to inappropriate demands from people and call it serving them.

There are times you must say no and that will frustrate and will sometimes lead people to do some disastrous things, and that’s a great tragedy and your heart breaks and you must go through all the things that a sensitive man like Sam goes through, all the questioning. I’ve had two suicides in my career, two clients of mine that suicided. One came late for an appointment and I had reason to be concerned. I called up relatives and they went to the home and by the time they got there this woman had killed her three children and herself. Well, you wrestle with that a little bit. Another fellow committed suicide on Christmas day about 15 years ago. I was going to hospitalize him the next day, on the 26th. He killed himself on the 25th. You wrestle with that and I think that Christians need to live in a whole lot of tension about those things. We just don’t know what we’re doing half the time. And there just needs to be a growing dependence on the fact that in the middle of our confusion and stumbling, God is going to get his work done through people whose heart is toward him. And my heart is toward him and Sam’s heart is toward him and he’s made a thousand mistakes and I’ve made 2,000, but God’s still going to get his work done through our lives even though we’re a mess.

Questioner: what cautions should be given for support groups in churches.

Crabb: The major thing I’d say is largely by way of reiteration. Do understand the underpinnings of what normally goes on in a recovery group. Recovery groups, when we take something from our culture into our church, we’re oftentimes dragging along presuppositions that are antagonistic to what the pulpit’s all about. And when you have that, you have tremendous possibilities for division. I would not want a group that was called a recovery group in our church just because the label has been so associated with a secular mindset that I think is antithetical to the gospel. I have no problem with Christians meeting together to support one another. When you come together, learn how to encourage one another. Hebrews 10 talks about that.

I think what I would want to do is I would want to devote a series of messages to the church’s philosophy of group life and what does support in a Christian sense look like? What are we trying to accomplish in groups? What do we see as wrong with people that groups can assist? What does biblical encouragement look like? I would want to talk about all those kinds of things and I’d want to probably spend a fair amount of time with my leaders and ask them very closely just what are the theological understandings with which you approach the group enterprise and see if some of the things that are reflected in the codependent movement are in their minds that I think are problematic.

The whole 12 step thing, for example, I’ve read them a thousand times, but I couldn’t tell you what they are in detail, all 12 of them. A lot of people have pointed out that many of the actual steps are biblical things to do, like a fearless moral inventory. Is that a biblical thing to do? Well, it can be, except that when you buy into a certain presuppositional set, then what often happens is what Melody Beatie talks about when she says that we must realize that the greatest sin that we commit is the failure to love ourselves. And so the fearless moral inventory ultimately comes down sometimes, not always, but ultimately can come down to the ways in which I refuse to take care of myself and value myself and that becomes the primary sin.

Well, is that kind of thinking creeping into your church? And if it is, I think you have a real problem. I don’t think that’s right at all. I personally would have a struggle using the 12 steps and even trying to Christianize them thoroughly simply because they’re coming out of a way of thinking that has a lot of stuff that I find antagonistic to the gospel and I think it’s pretty hard to filter it enough. I think we as Christians could come up with an alternative. I’m not sure if I have one, but I think we could come up with an alternative. I’m not saying we would have 13 steps or nine steps or something to distinguish us. I have a problem with the whole step mentality. And this is a little tiny point that’s terribly eisegetical, so forgive me, but in Exodus 20, it does make the point there were no steps up to the altar. I wouldn’t want to make a whole lot out of that.

But it seems to me that once we start programming ourselves to get to God by here’s this pattern, then ultimately we’re back to a broken cistern mentality that Jeremiah 2:13 where God says the two sins are that they have forsaken me and they’ve dug for themselves broken cisterns. The point is that it’s something over which I have control. I want my water supply to be under my control. That’s fallenness and I think steps tend to appeal to that mentality so that I struggle with steps as a major machinery to get to God, although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with certain steps as to kind of summarizing biblical teaching, but I struggle with the 12 steps as being a good thing that leads us in that direction.

Questioner: My question was for a basic critique of the 12 steps. Does anyone want to add anything to that?

Piper: The only thing I think I’d want to add is to reaffirm that really tremendously important insight that if you take a shell like “do fearless moral inventory,” most people aren’t as penetrating as Larry just was to say that there is a conception of morality which you are using to do inventory. When you do inventory, you have a list, then you look on the shelf to see if the things on the list are there or not. And everything hangs on what’s on the list. If love yourself is at the top of the list or some variety of it, rather than, say, the glory of God or the entanglements of our own desires that seek self, then it’s off. What’s on that list is not determined at all in most recovery groups.

In fact, it’s so wide open, that’s evidently what’s made them work in society, that the higher power is wide open and the list on the moral inventory is wide open and everything is wide open so that the dynamic seems to be we’re just all there doing these things together. So I would just want to say that determining the answer to the question of what do you do to make sure your groups are most biblical is that if you’re going to use anything like that, if you are more given to step-Christianity than Larry Crab is, then take each one of them as a pastor and say, “This is what we mean by ‘higher power.’ This is what we mean by ‘moral inventory.’ You just go right down the line and fill them up. But I have not made any attempt to think that through our small group system here is just wide open and my teaching is from Sunday morning, and I think there’s a sense in which the priorities of our church and the centrality of God are such that I’m hoping they find their way into those groups.

Storms: I don’t have a lot to add to that other than if you’re looking for a Christian critique of the 12 steps, there are plenty of them out there. There are attempts on the part of some to redeem the 12 steps. John White in his book Changing on the Inside addresses the subject of the 12 steps. Nancy Groom and her book From Bondage to Bonding: Escaping Codependency, Embracing Biblical Love goes through and critiques the 12 and tries to redeem those that are redeemable. There is a new book out by William Playfair called The Useful Lie that is extremely critical of any attempt to redeem the 12 steps and is just a very negative response to it.

I just have one comment about something that was in the previous question, and this may be going off the deep end and opening a big can of worms. It strikes me in one respect that the codependency movement is trying to fix something that isn’t broken when it says that we need to get people to love themselves more. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible not to love yourself. I realize that notions of self-contempt and so-called low self-esteem are valid. They occur, but I don’t think the reason for it is because we haven’t loved ourselves. I think perhaps the problem is that we have loved ourselves excessively and unbiblical in certain regards. So I have problems in approving a movement whose principle point of identification is we need to get people to love themselves more. I don’t think that’s a problem. I really don’t, personally.

Questioner: Dr. Winter what do you think about the effect of the codependency movement either to erode a sense of others-centeredness or not to affect it among the world missionary task force?

Dr. Ralph Winter: In looking forward to this conference, I read through a number of current books of all kinds on this general subject. I also polled several of the major mission boards and their personnel offices and asked them, are the candidates coming in worse shape than before or what’s the problem and what do you do about it? I did a lot of those things, and of course I will be mentioning some of this tomorrow, but I don’t think there’s a major difference just because of the codependency fad, let’s say. I mean, there are other fads that are almost equivalent to it and the terminology changes every so often. This latest issue of leadership says this is not going to go away and all that sort of thing. I don’t think the problem is going to go away, but the terminology is going to be outmoded.

In fact, the latest book by the Minirth-Meier people talks about boundaries. In fact, on Friday and Saturday, the Minirth-Meier Clinic, which is spreading, has gone beyond its codependency emphasis into a boundary seminar now, but it amounts to the same sort of thing. And then you see these grace books that talk about how everyone is discovering grace. No matter what went wrong, you’re okay. Now, my staff are relatively younger people and they’ve got all the maladies you can think of. But I made a comment about David Seamands’ book. David Seamands is a very perceptive minister who early in the game began to utilize psychological concepts in his ministry and he was noted for that.

They say the missing ingredient is grace. And so the title of the book has great big word “grace,” and there’s two or three other books. So we have that approach and some of these other approaches. So I made a comment to our staff, you know, hey, if you go to the Bible, grace is not sort of a transaction that happens in heaven. It’s not getting your credit rating in heaven erased merely. It’s an empowerment. Grace in the New Testament is power. It says, “The grace of God was with him.” It didn’t mean his credit record was erased, but that God’s power and presence was there. And Paul said, “Hey, give joyously and if you don’t feel like it, God will give you the grace to give joyously.” There was no alternative to giving joyously and the grace meant the difference. Well, young people today are looking for excuses for what they can’t or don’t want to do and codependency helps them and barriers help them and everything. Every book you almost think of now gives people excuses for not really giving their utmost for his highest.

And that’s a very pervasive thing. So young families are all the time telling you, “Oh no, I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I need to preserve the family,” or whatever it is. They need to preserve their own self-worth or preserve something or other. There’s a very preserving self-loving atmosphere that just pervades the candidates. And I heard from one of these agencies that some of the missionaries are going out and saying, “Look, we’re going to put in eight hours a day, period. We’ve been taught to draw the line.” Well, that’s a generally good idea. You don’t want to knock yourself out. You have to live to fight another day. But the very attitude is off. Or you see it in women. They say, “Well, it’s my husband, he’s the missionary, not me. I’m going to be doing crossword puzzles or something.” And it is a very difficult thing.

Now Wycliffe is the group, they’re the largest group in terms of going into this sort of thing. At one time they had 14 full-time family counselors on their staff and I got a whole sheath of materials from them. It is really lurid reading, the kind of thing they’re having to deal with. But I think the consensus is we’re not going to escape this problem. We’re just going to have to plow through it and somehow deal with these people and help them out. It’s part of the boomer generation and the changing of the generations in terms of attitudes. And there’s many, many things that come into it. I’m not sure that’s a good answer to your question, but it does show up. I feel a little funny though at this conference because what difference does it really make to you people if the missionaries are having problems? Your problems are something else and maybe there can be some light shed on your problem by those who are dealing with the same problem. And in that sense it would be relevant to this group, but I really sort of feel out of place in this panel even because we’re both dealing with the same kind of clay and so forth. And that’s, in a sense, more important than the fact that we happen to be missionaries and you happen to be pastors.

Questioner: What priority is there to the inward look, especially in relation to the more traditional theological language of the New Testament?

Crabb: I think the inside look thing has gotten out of hand. I know my book is called Inside Out and I think that the emphasis that I attempted to have in the book I do think is a biblical emphasis that basically came out of the Matthew 23 passage where the Lord said that you need to clean the inside of the cup and dish as opposed to just kind of polishing the outside and looking good. And then he compared the Pharisees to the whitened sepulchers. The stones were painted white so that the Jews on their way to ceremonial religion wouldn’t have to be defiled by touching it. And he said that, “But your lives on the inside are a mess and I want you to deal with the inside things as opposed to simply polishing the outside.” And my contention is that it’s very easy for us to focus on that which we can more easily control, which is outside appearances. And to put it in somewhat trite terms, as long as we have our devotions and we’re in church every Sunday and we’re not beating our wives and not watching porno flicks, then somehow we’re spiritual.

My thought is, we can be measuring up externally, but our hearts can still be a mess as evidenced in the way that we relate to others. Are we the kind of people that draw others to the Savior? Is there an aroma about us? Is there gladness about our souls? Are we always down? I get down sometimes. If I’m always down, I think that’s cause for taking a look at my relationship with the Lord and what I know about him. So I think there’s really a definite place for an inside look. If by that you mean don’t be content with merely external appearances, well, the Lord wasn’t content with that. He made that very clear to the Pharisees. But the other thing I would say is this, I don’t go around obsessing about myself or when I do I think I’m wrong. I didn’t spend this morning wondering what my motivations were for getting behind the pulpit this morning. I got my talk ready and got up and enjoyed talking to y’all. And whether I was full of this motive or that motive or something else, I’m sure it’ll come out someday. Until then, I’m going to have lunch and get on with life.

I’m not going to fuss with that a whole lot, but I do think that the life of Jonah’s not too bad an illustration. When God said to Jonah, “I want you to go preach to Nineveh,” Jonah said, “No, I won’t,” God, at that point, did not respond by saying, “You need counseling.” He put him inside the belly of the fish for a couple days, which I take to be more discipline than counseling. But then after that there was obedience, and then when the anger came, then chapter four was an inside look. Therefore, I would suggest that if a person comes to me and says, “I’m having an affair and I want to understand why,” my thought would be that before we take an inside look, we’ve got to deal with some very simple biblical absolutes. Now in your struggle to be obedient, if there are things to understand about your soul that can facilitate further expressions of the obedient desires of your heart, then I’m willing to take an inside look and do what sounds more like psychological stuff, which I don’t think is psychological at all. I think it’s biblical. I don’t see myself as a psychologist. I see myself as a rather poor theologian of sanctification, and that’s much more my intent than to be a psychologist. So there’s a place.

There’s a place for an inside look as opposed to just an external rearrangement of our cosmetics so we look good. But there’s no place for an inside look when it is used as a narcissistic desire to enjoy exploring the riches of my internal intrigue while I continue to go on moving in directions that are not pleasing to the Lord.

Questioner: Is there a distinction between psychological issues and depravity? Are you ruling out the former?

Crabb: No, I don’t see that I’m ruling out the former at all. But I do think I believe that the Bible addresses the former. I think there’s more to be concerned with than the fact that I’m depraved and that my depravity interacts with the way life has treated me. I think there certainly is that. I think it’s foundational, but I think there are other issues to be concerned with as well. I think a full-orbed biblical view of people includes the issue that I was designed for relationship.

I think there are real distinctions in boys and girls. And I think one of the distinctions in a little girl is that she was built, she was designed to be deeply enjoyed. To put it a little bit stereotypically, I think a boy was designed to be deeply respected. I think when that little boy is demeaned and not respected at all, does that cause something to take place inside of him that in our culture we might call a psychological problem? I have no difficulty with that, believing that that little boy is going to have some struggles. He doesn’t feel respected at all. The little girl longs to be enjoyed. Her father used her in ways he never should have. Therefore, she was illegitimately enjoyed in ways she wasn’t designed to be.

I’m willing to deal with two pivot points in the human personality. One is the issue of sin, depravity, arrogance, building your own city, and self-sufficiency, digging your own cisterns, and all that kind of thing as a foundational issue as to what’s wrong with people. But I’m also willing to deal with the fact that I was built to enjoy a certain kind of relationship that I’ve never enjoyed outside of Christ. And that leaves me scared. It leaves me hurting, it leaves me longing for more. And the proper response to that, it seems to me, is not the rebuke of sin, but the encouragement to hope. Because the day is coming when everything that I was designed to be is going to be fully realized and lived out in perfect design and glorification. Until then, I want to be moving in that direction.

This is where I think I tend to be misunderstood. I don’t want to be saying that any client that walks in right away I’m saying, “Boom, boom, depravity. You’re a sinner. Shape up.” I hope I’ve communicated something other than that. But I want to communicate very strongly that there are other issues in the human soul that we do hurt because we long for things that are not yet. We live out of the garden. We are not designed to live out of the garden. We live in a world where people don’t love perfectly. I was designed to be loved perfectly, and I’ve never been loved perfectly by anybody except my Lord. And therefore I struggle with that.

I wasn’t loved perfectly by that man in the seminar who accosted me before I had to speak. I wasn’t designed to receive that kind of abuse. And do I have a bit of a scar from that? Yeah, that bugs me some. That’s hard. And I feel like, “I wish he’d have given me the benefit of the doubt and I wish he’d have been a little more sensitive to me and that hurts me that he didn’t.” Am I carrying that with me? Yeah. To some degree. And if that gets in the way of my functioning toward my wife, then the issue is depravity.

Questioner: There have been efforts to move people through a 12 step program that have failed. There’s no breakthrough. What is the place of deliverance and warfare praying to achieve that breakthrough?

Piper: I don’t think there’s any wrongdoing in it unless your motives are wrong or you do anything un-biblical. In fact, it seems to me the more I listen to all these things, the more what it all boils down to is that nobody really knows what to do in any particular moment for any particular need except God. And therefore, tuning in to what God wants to do at any particular moment is very important. And therefore, it may not be at the end of the 12 steps that you would do the spiritual warfare, but you would discern almost immediately there something here of an extraordinarily evil kind that has oppressed and harassed or possessed this person for some time and needs to be confronted head on in a extensive kind of prayer battle. I’m sure open to that. We do some of that here and you’ve probably seen a lot more than we’ve seen, but I think more and more of that is coming.

The intractability of certain bondages and habits drives counselors and pastors right up the wall. There’s no point in us pointing our finger because we’re all confronted with problems in people’s lives that seem not to budge. And therefore, more and more I think we’re asking whether Satan has a bigger hand in this than we had thought. And if so, are there dimensions of confrontation and kinds of praying that we have not used and we need to discover how to use? I’m looking.

Storms: The question you ask is one that perhaps is foremost in my thinking right now. If I can use the terms, this is the next great frontier for my thinking and the very question you asked is what I asked Larry at breakfast this morning. I wish we would’ve taped it. He had some excellent comments and I’d even invite him to respond as well.

But I wrestle with this question too. At what point do I begin to wonder, as John said, if perhaps there is a demonic component in an individual’s struggle and in their habitual defeat? I’m not sure I have any clear answers for that right now. I’ll share with you the example that I gave with Larry, and it goes back to this lady that I mentioned a moment ago who’s had significant struggles after three lengthy hospitalizations and after extensive work. I can honestly say that I’m sure there are things that I don’t know obviously, but I did my best to leave no stone unturned. We explored and worked through countless problems. And it just seemed as if she was existing. She wasn’t suicidal anymore, but there was no joy, there was no freedom.

She was released from her last hospitalization in June. And this last September, I gave her Neil Anderson’s book The Bondage Breaker, and asked her to read through it and pray through it and work through it. And it was in conjunction with the fact that I’m teaching a series on spiritual warfare now at our church. I don’t know if someday I’ll have to eat my words, but the Lord has done for her a 180 as it were. And there is a freedom now and a joy and a deliverance if you want to use that term in a good sense that she has never known before. And she attributes it to the fact that she took very seriously what Anderson said in the book. She began to realize who she was in Christ, her identity as a new creation, the authority that is hers as one who has been raised up and seated with him in the heavenlies, and the resources spiritually that are available to her through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

She went through the steps as he outlined. She prayed the prayers with heartfelt fervency and sincerity. And she has now admitted to me what I suspected all along that indeed there were certain spiritual phenomena going on in her life that she was utterly ashamed and embarrassed to tell me about. She was fearful that I would conclude she was really nuts and I wouldn’t want to deal with her any longer. And she’s truly been set free.

Somebody might ask, “Well, why didn’t you bring this in at the very beginning of the two years?” And again, this is something that I think I would really like to hear Larry repeat a little bit of what he said to me. I think that there was great, great maturing in her relationship with Christ, her understanding of God, her appreciation of grace through the process that we went through in dealing with issues relating to her husband, relating to the sexual abuse in her childhood, and relating to her relational style as a so-called “good girl.”

So many things were designed, at least from my perspective, to drive her to the cross and to that raw dependency on Jesus. I don’t think at this point I would’ve reversed the method and the process with her. Now, with somebody else, it might be different. As John said, I now in my ministry, before someone comes in, some considerable time in prayer. I pray, “Lord, if there is a distinctive demonic component in this person’s problem that needs to be dealt with at the outset, please make me sensitive to it. Give me the right questions to ask. Direct our conversation in the proper area.”

Perhaps with that, this can be handled at the outset in some cases. But I don’t think there’s a rule that you can apply to every single individual. I think there are many, many instances in which though there may be a demonic element that needs to be addressed, it may be something that comes after the so-called inside look in the way that Larry has described it.

Crabb: I concur.

Questioner: Dr. Winter, what is your opinion about praying for deliverance and warfare counseling through prayer in the third world and on the frontiers?

Winter: Well, of course, I suppose most of you realize that the average missionary has been involved long before in these kinds of things. I remember a friend of mine who was speaking to a group of people in Pakistan after getting out of seminary and going through all the normal theology courses and so forth. Here this 16 year old kid just ran screaming down the aisle and threw himself at the feet of this missionary and was just writhing. And he thought, “Let’s see. Which course did I take about that?” But the people that were there, this was nothing special for them. They prayed for this young man and so forth. But it’s something that we somehow haven’t gotten into our theological seminaries quite yet.

It isn’t a matter of formulas and special names and terminology. Virtually every thing that we touch or think about has a demonic element to it it seems to me. I mean, is there anybody here who doesn’t believe that Satan exists? And if he does, don’t you suppose he has something to do with practically everything? I remember when I was a kid, I thought it was a joke. It was going around in Sunday school. Someone said, “Well, are you having any trouble with Satan?” And the guy would say, “No.” Well, then the answer was, “Well, maybe he’s not having any trouble with you.” And it took me 25 years to realize, well, maybe that’s a very much heavier observation than I had recognized it to be.

I think that now with the rise of the occult in this country, satanism, and even the police departments are becoming aware of this sort of thing, there is a quantitatively, distinctly greater amount of this kind of overt demonic activity. But I don’t think it’s radically different from anything in the past. I don’t think when we pray to the living God that we’re dealing somehow with another God now who has trouble with Satan, though the one we used to pray to had solved all those problems. I do think that somehow the coefficient of belief in a city, for example, has a lot to do with how much there is. I do think that immigration brings problems to this country even as we immigrating take problems with us to the field, diseases and so forth that the people didn’t know.

I think it’s a very real thing. If this question had come up five years ago, there would’ve been a lot of people on the edge of their seats and so forth. I come from California, and maybe in other parts of the country this is an upsetting subject. But it really has become humdrum.

Questioner: With this new codependent movement of self-help, self-love is growing and becoming more popular as we speak, how can I, as a youth leader, lead the younger generation to Christ’s way of living over them rather than falling into accepting a faulty movement? Is it my job simply to give careful awareness to this and just direct Christ to them and pray that it’s God’s intended path? What can we do? How can we install guards into this self-help era into our children, and what is our hope for the next generation? And can we avoid it getting worse?

Storms: I am not so sure that the solutions are going to be that much different from the ones we would use for adults. Perhaps the questions that kids are asking are significantly different, but I’m not sure that the answers that we’re going to give are. I’ll confess to you, I struggled for a long time and still do with the problems of teenagers and our young people. And if there ever were an instance in which I would refer, it’s when somebody came in and said, “I’ve got a problem with my kid.” I’d say, “Well, let me see if I can find somebody who can help you with that,” because I really didn’t understand a lot of the thinking and the mentality of our kids.

Again, I’m not trying to put you off by recommending you go read something. I’m not trying to escape answering the question, but I have been helped tremendously by Kevin Huggins book, Parenting Adolescents. I find it to be a tremendously insightful treatment of what’s going on inside the minds and the hearts of our kids. What are their deepest longings? What are their greatest fears? What are their legitimate as well as illegitimate needs? What’s going on in their hearts? And as well as a result of the uniqueness of a contemporary society? It is a different world from the one that I was raised in as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s. I found tremendous help in that book.

It’s not just for parents of adolescents. In fact, he has seminars for youth workers. I don’t know if you’ve heard of him or his seminars. I was going to say, if those of you who haven’t, you can write to Larry’s ministry at IBC in Morrison, Colorado and get, I’m sure you get information from there. Do you want to say something that’s a lot more helpful than what I’ve said?

Crabb: I recommend one more book and then make a few comments. If you have not read the book by Jack Miller called Come Back, Barbara, it’s not a very well-known book. I don’t know why it didn’t sell better. To me it was the most helpful book I ever read. Kevin’s I would put as number two and Jack’s, for other reasons, I put number one.

It’s a book where a pastor was a pastoral ministry director, I think at Westminster for some years. He had a daughter who at age 18 rebelled thoroughly. She went and spent eight years in total decadent living, lived with seven different men, and got involved in the drug culture. And it tells a story of how Jack tried to minister grace to his daughter through this. And after each chapter he describes how he and his wife, Rosemary, dealt with their daughter, Barbara, who at age 26 or something ended up the bartender she was living with, became a Christian and he led his girlfriend to the Lord. They got married and the bartender is now a youth pastor in Jack’s church. It’s one of those nice stories. They don’t always end like that, but this one does. And Barbara, as an older adult now, back to the Lord, writes the sequel to each of Jack’s chapters that was happening inside of her life as Jack was trying to deal with her in different ways. It’s a very insightful, helpful, wonderful book. I’d say that.

The other thing I’d say is probably the person who I had the most affinity toward in terms of youth work is a woman named Melissa Trevathan in Nashville, Tennessee with Daystar Ministries. She just taught a class for us at our program last week actually. If she were here, I think she’d say something like this and I would applaud it. She’s the most effective person I know in working with adolescents. She focuses on providing the kids with a kind of relationship that touches deeply into their souls. She gets the kids to tell their stories. That’s a big phrase with her, getting the kids to “tell their stories.” And as the kids tell their stories, she listens very deeply to the pain, the struggles, and treats them with great respect. The other thing which she does, and which I would teach very strongly, is that as they tell their stories, you’ve got to explore what I call their style of relating.

This would apply to adults as well as youngsters, but adolescents, as they tell their stories, start exposing the ways that they’re relating to people and the motivations beneath it, the self-protective motivations that are going on beneath the surface as they relate. I don’t think you’re going to get a window into the soul that’s any clearer than the motivations behind our styles of relating. In dealing with kids I think that the issues that can counter some of the errors of the codependency movement are most surfaceable by talking about style of relating kind of things.

When a kid sits there in a group, let’s say, and is very, very shy. To say, “Tell me, you spent about an hour and a half in the group now. You haven’t said a word. What’s going through you as you’re sitting there? I noticed you’ve been in our group now for 10 weeks and you really don’t talk much at all. I wonder why. Is this the way you are at home? Tell me your story. Tell me how this has become your style of relating to being terribly shy. What has it accomplished for you?”

One of my basic presuppositions is what I call a teleological model, that everything we do has an agenda. Everything is aiming in a direction. And if the child is sitting there silent for 10 weeks in a group, there’s an agenda that that child is honoring by saying nothing. And that agenda needs to be exposed as using the group to achieve something for that particular person’s wellbeing. And you can begin to expose the kind of things in that child’s soul that can drive them to the Savior. I think telling stories, looking as not relating to me or the central issues that I’d be concerned with in dealing with the adolescent population.

Questioner: Dr. Crabb can you summarize your view on the gay and lesbian orientation and on their overtures to be a part of the orthodox church?

Crabb: It’s always required that we start with what’s clear in scripture. And I would argue, and I presume most of us would be in agreement, that God does not regard homosexuality as an optional alternative. It’s something that he says is a perversion. And that word is said not in a slang phrase, but as a distortion, a disfigurement, a perversion of his design. We need to simply start with that absolute without teaching from the Scripture, I think.

Then I think once we stand firm and say, “This is not to be,” then suppose the person comes to you and says, “I agree with that. But the urges are very, very strong.” I was in Germany last summer doing a seminar with OCSC, a missionary organization, and it works with servicemen. One of the missionaries came to me and he said, “I have about five servicemen right now, five American military folks, that have a homosexual orientation, but they’re Christians. They know it’s wrong and they want with all their strength to not yield to these particular urges, but they live in dorms with other guys.”

And the way he put it to me, I don’t mean to be crass or inappropriate here, but he said, “It would just be like me,” the missionary speaking, “living in a girl’s dorm. All the sexual provocation is going on. These guys are going through the dickens every day with their urges and their struggles and their tensions.”

Once we start with a biblical absolute that it’s wrong, we must do more than simply command them not to yield. We must stand firm against the homosexual movement, working to grant our endorsement of that as an acceptable alternative, that as long as you have a covenantal relationship, it’s an appropriate thing for Christians. We need to stand firm against that. But then we need to start thinking heavily about what is going on inside of the image bearer, the Christian who loves the Lord, who still struggles with perverted sexual desires so we can help these servicemen and help the folks in this room. It’s not right for us to raise our hands. I don’t think we need to exhibit our dirty linen, but I do think that in a room of how many guys here, 150 guys, there’s a third that struggle with some sort of very perverted, aberrant desire.

For some of you, it’s pornography. For some of you, it’s exhibitionism. For some, it’s transvestism. For some it’s homosexuality. For some, it’s necrophilia. There are all sorts of things that are going on. There are things like bestiality. All sorts of things are happening. I see it all, and I need two hours to say it well. So in less than two minutes, I won’t say it well. It’ll sound simplistic and caricatured, but I don’t know how to do any better. I see it all, ultimately, as a perversion of what it means to be a man, or what it means to be a woman. I think you ought to read Piper and Grudem on Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I think this is an excellent, well-thought-through, biblical resource for thinking through that there are distinctions, that the Bible has different roles, different responsibilities. I’m not egalitarian in my orientation. I think that there are distinctions that must be honored, and I think that, to get to the root of the matter, we have to say that there’s something about being a man that is terribly unique. I’m willing to go so far, in metaphorical language, of saying that my soul has as masculine a shape as my body. Now, that’s a metaphor, because the soul is not a thing which you can measure in a microscope somewhere, but I believe that the essence of who I am is male, and the essence of who the ladies are is female. And there’s something very distinct about that. What that means to me, is that a man is required to move into his world, where there is no clear code for how to move, using his courageous resources on behalf of another person to create a response. That’s a bunch of gobbledygook. What I mean is this. When I’m in the middle of a fight with my wife, I don’t have a clue what to do. I read the marriage bill and I don’t get help. And what I tend to do, then, is go where I’m pretty sure of myself.

I was giving a Bible study for the Broncos, who didn’t quite make it to the Super Bowl, about two months ago. One of the big, strong, well-known players was sitting in the Bible study. And he’s a big, strong, tough guy. He just beats people up every Sunday afternoon. His wife’s about five feet four inches, weighs 115, and he’s terrified of her. I’ll give him a name, Frank, though it’s not his real name. I said to her, “When does Frank back away from you?” And she said, “Well, sometimes when I get mad at him, and I just tell him I’m so angry with him, he just backs away.” So I turned to him, Frank, and I said, “Frank, what do you feel at that point?” And here’s this big, strong guy, who threw his hands up. He said, “I don’t know what to do.” What I said was, “You don’t have a playbook.” And when a man doesn’t have a playbook, he backs away and goes to where he has a playbook.

I think a man is somebody who leads into uncertainty because of his relationship with the Lord, creating movement into the world on behalf of the other, representing Christ. I think that’s manhood. I think a woman is somebody who is willing to trust the Lord enough to make her resources available for the encouragement of others. I think there’s a definite masculinity and femininity that’s very, very distinct. Most men don’t have fathers. We all have biological fathers, but in a very rich sense of the term, how many of you have a father, in the sense of somebody who’s walking the road ahead of you, who is able to look back, and you respect that man because he’s survived the pitfalls of life?

He’s made his mistakes, but he’s going on for the Lord in strong ways. He looks back at you, his kid — maybe you’re 20, maybe you’re 50 — and says, as he watches you struggle, “I believe in you. You can make it.” And then turns around and keeps going. He doesn’t come back and help. He somehow believes in you from a distance, and keeps on setting the path, and walks ahead. How many have that? Very, very few, and as a result, I think very few men feel deeply affirmed that they have what it takes to create, in chaos, in the absence of a code, and to move into a person’s life. When that sense of masculinity is badly demeaned because of all kinds of difficult things in the background, then I think that a man who longs for intimacy, like all image-bearers long for intimacy, wants to find some intimate relationship without ever having to exercise the parts of masculinity that he’s scared to exercise.

Homosexuality provides that alternative. Therefore, it seems to me that the way to deal with a homosexual is to deepen his understanding of masculinity and what it means to get that masculinity expressed. A good friend of mine has had major homosexual struggles over the years. He’s been married. When I first spent time with him, they were separated, and they didn’t have any sex. He didn’t have desires for his wife. The marriage was falling apart. And the thing that really began to help was this. This is so simplistic to say it quickly, but when he began to see some deep struggles in his wife, he was willing to take the risk that there was something he could do in moving toward her, using resources God had built in him on her behalf.

As he began doing that, the homosexual urges became far less strong, and far less obsessive. We, as men, are called to pass on life. Physically, we enter our wives, and pour forth into and create life. I think that’s also a metaphor. It’s a physical reality in sex and the marriage relationship, but I think it’s also that I move toward my wife, I move toward my children. As a pastor, I move toward my church, and I pour forth, which is a very masculine image. But if I believe I have nothing to pour forth with, if I’ve been castrated, then I’m going to find some other way to feel good about myself. And if my threat has been severe, pornography might not do it.

I might need to go to another man, where resources of masculinity are not nearly as required as they are with a woman. My wife is as woman as you can get, and what I’ve often said about her — and this sounds unkind though — is that when you’re married to a real woman, you’ve got two choices: Be a man or kill yourself.

Storms: That was lovely. I’m just looking at this as a father of two daughters, and John could maybe testify as a father of four sons, or Larry as of two sons, what can we do just in our own homes? And relating to the issue of homosexuality, I think the greatest influence I can have on my daughters, in terms of their sexual orientation, is to show them concretely and authentically and genuinely, what it is to love their mother.

It’s to love my wife. My oldest daughter turned 13 in December. One day, some guy is going to come up to her and for whatever reason he may have, he’s going to say, “Melanie, I love you.” And I hope that she will, when she hears that for the first time, be able to evaluate it and say, “What does that mean? How do I know?” I’m hoping and praying with God’s help that she’ll be able to say to herself, “Does this guy treat me like my dad treats my mom?” I hope that her desire for a lifelong, loving relationship with a member of the opposite sex is going to be, to some degree, the product of what she has seen in terms of my relationship with her mother. I think the same will, in some respects, go for sons who are going to know what they mean, or don’t mean, when they tell a young girl they love her, and when they begin to pursue the opposite sex, in light of what they have seen in their own fathers, and how they’ve loved their wives.

Questioner: How do you feel about the movement that claims abuse of spiritual authority and spiritual manipulation movement, in light of the legitimate place of aggressive Christianity?

Winter: Well, there is in this, so-called, charismatic sphere, a quite different attitude toward revelation for individuals, than there is in the straight evangelical sphere. Although ultimately, in the entire Pietist tradition, there’s not a whole lot of ultimate difference because, whether you’re a straight evangelical or a charismatic, there is for almost everyone the resource of saying, “Well, I really think the Lord wants me to do this,” and then who’s going to tell you, “No”? Young people come to me and say, “Well, I really think God wants me to go to China.” I say, “Well, then, go ahead,” but I often tell them, “I doubt it.” I just tell them, “I doubt it.” They say, “God told me to do this.” I tell them, “I doubt it,” and it really shakes them up because you’re not supposed to say that, because God really does speak to people.

Now, when I went to seminary — of course, maybe it was a little backward — I remember the homiletics professor telling me about this famous preacher, though it wasn’t Spurgeon, who had these tremendously enlightened messages. Some lady came to him after a service one time and said, “It’s amazing. God really speaks to you, doesn’t he, while you’re preaching?” And he said, “No, I don’t think so.” She said, “Well, you mean he never speaks to you while you’re preaching?” He said, “No, I don’t think so.” Then he said, “Oh, once the Lord spoke to me, but that was after I finished.” She said, “Well, what did he say? What’d he say?” He said, “You didn’t prepare enough.”

Now that’s sort of the flip side of the thing. Now, I know in YWAM circles, for example, Loren Cunningham once spoke to our staff and it was really impressive because, while we have quite a few people in this sphere on our staff, nevertheless, the overall tone is straight evangelical. So anyway, he said, “Well, now when some young person tells you that it is God’s will for them to do this, or to do this, or to go here, or to go there, or to take some different job, or whatever, you need to ask them these seven questions.” And I can’t remember what they were, but they were something like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” And in other words, you wouldn’t contradict the fact that God spoke to them because that’s counterproductive. But then you say, “But is now the time? Is this the time that God wants you to do that?” Or you say, “Is this the way in which he wants you to do it?” Or you say, “Are you the person that wants to do this?”

I said to myself, “After you asked all those seven questions, nobody would have any confidence in what they thought God told them to do.” And I think the so-called charismatic leaders of our time, the Jack Hayfords and so forth, are much better able than I to deal with people who get direct revelations all through the day, every day. They’re essentially unleadable. You can’t assign them a job. You can’t ask them to do something because you’re running up against God every time. So all I can say is each cultural tradition has its own ways of coping with that particular problem.

But just in general now, I really think that one of the things about this discussion, I’m going to try to do something about this tomorrow. This is so culture bound, this whole discussion. It’s so U.S. We’re not asking what the cross-cultural validity of some of these things would be. But one of the things you see radically differently, in almost all mission field churches, is a far greater spiritual authority within the group. You don’t have individuals in the congregation being led directly from moment to moment, but you do have a sense of God speaking to the group and to individuals through the group, to the extent that if you took the average mission field church and plopped it down in this country, people would be up in arms. They’d say, “This is over shepherding, this is manipulation. You’re really overriding people’s personal sense of guidance.” Our whole Pietist tradition, which emphasizes individual experience, would react against what is common.

Now, why is that? Well, it’s partly because most traditional societies still do have social structure. They have, what are called, families, which do not exist in this country. There’s no such a thing. An article that I read recently by the president of the Theological Seminary in Singapore, that used to be liberal, that went conservative — evangelicals are just taking over Singapore — he was writing on what he called “filial piety.” Because in the Chinese Society of Singapore, family piety, honor of parents and so forth, is very strong. You wouldn’t even find an article on that subject in this country. And so there are many, many differences from culture to culture, but especially between the US culture, which has gone further, faster and more, I would say, more malignantly against and away from authority, from social structure and so forth. We’re almost a basket case.

The greatest impediment to the missionary movement today, is the gospel that we preach. Now, we don’t preach pornography, we don’t preach high divorce rates, and we don’t preach children rebelling against their parents. Although I’ve seen missionary movies that tell young people that if you don’t say, “No,” to your parents, you can’t be a Christian. Because of course the parents would tell them they couldn’t. But we really do have a ghastly backdrop to preach from overseas. I don’t know who it would be — Muslim or Hindu — that would ever want what we have to offer, in terms of family life and prison life. We have 22 times as many people behind bars, even more than in West Germany, proportionate to our population. But the difference between our society and the traditional societies of the world, is that most American evangelical families would be blessed just by being familiar with a pagan family overseas. They would be very greatly blessed, but that’s another subject.

Piper: One of my bottom-line concerns, near the bottom, in assessing the movement calling for this conference, is the jury is out as far as I’m concerned, on whether groups that have devoted themselves to recovery, 12-step, psychological orientation, are going to finish the Great Commission or care about it. I want to know that. I’m not going to jump on board. When I see people coming through Bethlehem with all my hang ups, and all the criticisms I get, and all the imperfections there are, and I see people caring about finishing the Great Commission, I feel like something’s being done right, even if there are a lot of sick people around who may not be getting better as fast as they’d like to get better. As we look around, we need to look for models that are not just making people feel better, and thus attracting big crowds, but are getting to the Muslims, and the Hindus, and the Buddhists, and the unreached tribal peoples and finishing the job? Sick or not sick.

I asked Ralph Winter, coming in, “Are we really sicker than William Carey and his wife were sick?” Now I hope he answers that question for us tomorrow because I think the missionary population, over the past 200 years, has been probably a pretty sick bunch of people, and that’s my only hope. If God can’t finish it with sick people, there is no hope. So I hope we hear a statement from Ralph tomorrow that it can be done because that’s the way it has been done. But I have a feeling that our focus, in the name of compassion, is moving off of the people who had no chance to hear, not just the people who haven’t heard in America.